Two Dad Ads & What Fatherhood Means

  by Chris Horst

This summer, two companies promoted fatherhood ads, each offering conflicting ideals about what it means to be a dad.

The first, from Apple, advertised their first foray into original television shows, Planet of the Apps. Like Shark Tank for app startup companies, Planet of the Apps features a celebrity lineup of judges—Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Gary Vaynerchuk. To pitch their apps, entrepreneurs literally give their pitch while riding on an elevator.

The premise sounds bad, but according to critics and the tech world alike, the show is actually even worse. Apple launched an ad campaign—a week before Father’s Day (!)—featuring Andrew Kemendo, one of the show’s first contestants. A father and tech entrepreneur, Kemendo said, “I rarely get to see my kids. That’s a risk you have to take.”

Apple eventually pulled the ad, thankfully. But the tension between winning at home and winning at work is one every dad understands. There is a simmering cultural tension suggesting you need to compromise one or the other in order to make your mark. We just don’t think that’s true.

On the flip side, TD Ameritrade produced a wonderful remake of Harry Chapin’s Cat’s in the Cradle, a song by a son lamenting his father’s absence in his life. The lyrics and cinematography elevate all that is good and right. The ad illuminates the importance of fathers showing up in their kids’ lives, no matter the consequences they might experience at work. It challenges dads to take risks at work in order to win at home.

We recently interviewed Matt Breen, an entrepreneur, lawyer, and fashion designer who is not short on ambition. He said, “At the end of the day, I’m a husband and father first. If you don’t have those priorities right, what are those other things for?”

We couldn’t agree more. Neglecting our roles as fathers is a risk we cannot afford to take.


P.S. Thriving at home and thriving at work aren’t in conflict. Here’s a lawyer, a professional football player, and a tech entrepreneur explaining how they navigate these tensions.